Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Music City Eats Returning in September as Music City Food + Wine Festival

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 1:26 PM

  • Jen Creed
Music City Eats, the ambitious food-and-drink festival that launched in September in downtown Nashville, is coming back this fall with a new name: Music City Food + Wine Festival.

Dreamed up by Kings of Leon and some of their associates in the worlds of food and music, the 2013 festival united local chefs with nationally known figures — John Besh, John Currence, Giada De Laurentiis, Edward Lee, Donald Link, Tim Love, Aarón Sánchez, Jon Shook, Vinny Dotolo, Nancy Silverton, Michael Symon, Jonathan Waxman and Trisha Yearwood — for two days of food sampling and panel discussions at Public Square Park downtown. You can read my lengthy recap here.

Last year's festival concluded with a concert at War Memorial Auditorium: Petty Fest, a tribute to the music of Tom Petty, featuring Norah Jones, members of Kings of Leon, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris, Trisha Yearwood, and the Black Keys' Patrick Carney.

The festival today announced its new name and said the event will take place Sept. 20-21 in Public Square Park; tickets to the festival (which is open only to ages 21 and older) go on sale May 13 at 10 a.m.

"You might notice a slight name change, but our style hasn’t changed. Prepare your appetite for another round of local and national talent, and more libations set to the down-home vibe of Nashville’s Public Square Park," according to the festival blog.

No details about the chef lineup or a musical component to this year's fest were announced. Bites will keep you posted when we learn more.

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City Grit Invites More Nashville Chefs to NYC

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Look out, Manhattan. Peg Leg has some belly for ya.
  • Look out, Manhattan. Peg Leg has some belly for ya'.
On the heels of Capitol Grille chef Tyler Brown's successful visit to Manhattan, "culinary salon" City Grit has created a "City Spotlight" series dedicated to Nashville talent. Similar to a Beard Dinner, chefs are invited by City Grits organizer Sarah Simmons to cook in a kitchen and cozy dining area in a building tucked into the Bowery area of New York City.

City Grit focuses on Southern chefs for the most part, and Manhattanites are literally eating it up. The next Music City star to appear will be Tandy Wilson of City House, who will showcase his talents this Tuesday, April 22. Three days later on April 25, Carey Bringle will bring his Peg Leg Porker brand of barbecue to the Big Apple in what should prove to be an entertaining evening.

On May 7, chef Trey Cioccia of The Farm House pays honor to Tennessee ingredients with a six-course dinner, and he's excited to share the best of the Volunteer State with the assembled diners. “I will make New Yorkers feel like they are sitting in my home in Wilson County, Tenn. Every bite is sourced from 21 farms in the Nashville area in keeping with my passion for organic farming.”

If you have any transplanted friends up North who might be pining for home, send them to the City Grit website to grab a ticket at the table.

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New Travel Channel Show Chow Masters Features Local Chefs

Posted by on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Frank Coraci and Sammy DeMarco with Nashville chef Brandon Frohne
  • Travel Channel
  • Frank Coraci and Sammy DeMarco with Nashville chef Brandon Frohne
Travel Channel has a new culinary competition show coming out, and one of the first stops on their eat-inerary was Nashville. Chow Masters features two brash and bulky hosts, chef Sammy DeMarco (aka Sammy D) and his best friend/Hollywood director Frank Coraci, as they travel around searching for “the tastiest and most creative comfort food in America.” DeMarco is the chef behind the former First Food & Bar at the Palazzo and Rattlecan at the Venetian in Las Vegas, and Coraci is the Hollywood director behind the three Adam Sandler hits Click, The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer

The pair visited Nashville in December to film an episode titled “Barbecue in Music City.” Keith West of Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, Brandon Frohne of Mason's Bar and Shane Autry of Smoke Et Al were interviewed about Nashville barbecue and cooked up their respective restaurants' renditions of a creative barbecue dish. The three chefs competed for a $10,000 cash prize and the Golden Skillet award.

I happened to be present for the filming of Autry's segment, and his pork belly slider topped with fried pork skin could definitely be tough to beat, although I have no knowledge of the final results. The episode will premiere this Tuesday, April 22, at 8:30 p.m. following an episode based in New York City.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eat REAL Tennessee Announces the First REAL Certified Restaurants in Tennessee

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Eat REAL Tennessee, an organization developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Department of Health and the U.S. Healthful Food Council, has announced the state's first food-service establishments (restaurants, caterers, and other businesses that provide food to public and private customers) to achieve REAL Certification. All of the businesses receiving the certification are located in Middle Tennessee, as Nashville was chosen as the anchor city to introduce the program. The program will be expanded to Memphis later this year and Knoxville next year.

Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) is a growing national program that helps combat diet-related disease by recognizing food-service operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship. Tennessee’s inaugural class of REAL Certified foodservice establishments includes many of my favorite restaurants: 1808 Grille, The Barn and Main House at Blackberry Farm, Frothy Monkey, The Garden Brunch Cafe, Joe Natural’s Cafe, Juice Bar, My Veggie Chef, Sky Blue Cafe, Sloco, Sunflower Cafe, The Wild Cow and the new Music City Center. “We’re pleased to recognize these leaders who are providing food that is not only good for business, but also good for Tennesseans,” said Eat REAL Project Manager Kristen Korzenowski. “These operators are contributing to a culture where the healthy choice is the easy choice.”

Eat REAL Tennessee reached out to local restaurants to educate them about the new program and encourage them to apply for certification. Utilizing the points-based REAL Index, independent registered dietitians conduct an assessment of menu offerings and overall nutrition and sustainability practices.

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Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , and Nashville Guru Can Point You to Today's Best Happy Hours

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Today's weather not withstanding, it will soon be patio time in Music City. Much as New Orleanians start to plan dinner while still enjoying lunch, when the clock strikes 3 in many workplaces, minds start to drift toward the possibilities of a nice after-work wind-down. Wouldn't it be great to have a couple of go-to spots online to look for some inspiration? Rejoice, Nashvillagers, because help is at hand. has compiled a nice list of local happy hours that you can sort by day of the week, time and/or neighborhood. How many times have you asked yourself, "Self, where can we find a nice outdoor patio with some cheap drinks right now?!" Here's your answer. Got a bad case of the Mondays and need to blow off some steam? Try one of these spots. Down to your last few bucks after an evening of partying on Saturday night, but still a little hungry and thirsty? There's still hope! (Including the great 2/1 deal that I keep forgetting about at Sunset Grill for items off their classics menu.)

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Legislature Passes Bill Allowing High-Gravity Beer in Grocery Stores

Posted by on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 10:08 AM

After years of struggling to pop the cork for selling wine in grocery stores, consumers have a second reason to celebrate this legislative session after the General Assembly added so-called “high-gravity” beers to the mix.

The House voted 72-12 Monday night to raise the alcohol limit on beers grocery and convenience stores can sell, upping the alcohol by weight to 8 percent from 5 percent. The legislation would also allow craft brewers to sell their high-gravity beers in growlers later this year.

If ushered into law, the change to 8 percent would still tie Tennessee with Alabama Mississippi for the strictest alcohol content limit in the Southeast. Other Southeastern states limit grocery sales to brews with alcohol levels in the teens, or have no limits at all.

But like the wine in grocery stores bill, the law will have to ferment for years before buyers will see a difference. Under the bill, beer buyers will have to wait until 2017 to see their high-gravity selections in grocery and convenience stores. Pending voter referendums in each county, wine will be for sale in food stores July 1, 2016.

Since the Senate passed the bill on a 22-7 vote last week, the high-gravity beer bill now heads to the governor’s office for his signature.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Restaurants Offer Up 'Tax Relief' With April 15 Specials

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 1:18 PM

At this point, I’ve lost track of most of the “tax relief” specials that businesses are offering tomorrow, but a few of the restaurant specials (and one preview of a new food truck) stood out among the crowd.

From 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Hard Rock Cafe at 100 Broadway will be hosting their “Sing for Your Supper” event. As a way to promote their new menu, Hard Rock is offering a free entrée from the new menu tonight to anyone who performs a complete song on the live music stage. The restaurant says the new menu is a result of extensive customer research that resulted in the addition of 30 new items and modifications to 28 other items for a completely revamped menu.

Out in Bellevue, Domino’s Pizza has informed us (actually, they informed SouthComm staffer J.R. Lind, who can’t figure out how he got on the Domino’s media contact list) that they will be serving free pizza and their new “Specialty Chicken” to folks waiting in line at the post office at 7619 Highway 70 S. That’s the location in the strip mall across from the old Bellevue Mall. Domino’s will be handing out the free food from 2 to 4 p.m. to anyone waiting in line to mail their tax returns at the Bellevue post office. If, like I do, you file electronically, you may be able to snag a slice if you stop in to buy stamps or just to say hello.

And in Green Hills, one of Nashville’s newest food trucks — excuse me, “Chinese Bao Bus,” Bao Down will be serving up bao (buns) at Kohana Japanese restaurant at 2002 Richard Jones Road for Bao Day Happy Hour from 5 until 7:30 p.m.

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Dinner Lab Plans a Bricks-and-Mortar Restaurant

Posted by on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 6:16 AM

Ever since the semi-secret Dinner Lab expanded to Nashville last summer, they've been going gangbusters. Not only does almost every announced event sell out almost immediately, but they've sold out all their Nashville memberships. (Although I have heard about new ones opening periodically, so it's worth trying or getting on the wait list.) The dining events continue to be interesting and are held in exotic locales around town. Dinner Lab has also expanded to many more cities since Nashville entered the fold as the third location. They now operate in 10 cities: New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco

Their next venture is a real bricks-and-mortar restaurant in one of their cities, and they say it's the first restaurant in the world that will be sourced entirely from data. To elaborate, they are planning to open a restaurant where every decision — the chef, the location and the menu — are all determined by the consumer.

Each week for the next few months, they'll feature a a different chef, multiple dinners and happy hours facilitated by a leader in the industry or media in the particular Dinner Lab market. Here's how they describe the process:

At dinner, which will be every Thursday, Friday, and/or Saturday, you’ll get to taste one of our chefs’ stories through a multi-course dinner and provide critical feedback to help them grow. The following week will have a different chef, a different menu, and a different story, and we’ll continue this for 11 weeks.

At happy hour, you’ll have the opportunity to hear the chef’s story and gain insight on culinary trends happening all over the country. Not to mention, there will be a few small plates and multiple drink offerings.

11 weeks, 11 chefs, 10 cities, ONE winner gets their very own restaurant.

It’s kind of like Top Chef . . . . except it’s real.

Eventually Dinner Lab will select a winner from all the data collected and open a crowd-sourced restaurant in one of the 10 markets. It should be quite the interesting social experiment. We'll report back as the process moves forward.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

The Weekly Open Thread: What Is Authenticity

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 7:12 AM

Steve Haruch has a thought-provoking piece in this week's Scene: "Turning Japanese: White privilege, ethnic kabuki and old problems with the New Nashville."

In part, Haruch is responding to a Time magazine story about the New Nashville, in which John Meacham writes, "Culture is commerce." (As Scene contributor Betsy Phillips pointed out in a piece for Think Progress, all 24 people mentioned in the Time story are white.)

Here's an excerpt from Haruch's story:

The owners of Two Ten Jack, Patrick Burke of Seed Hospitality and chef Jason McConnell, are white. Executive chef Jessica Benefield is white. To be clear: I have no problem with white people making Japanese food, any more than I have a problem with Korean people making Japanese food (which happens more than many realize) or Mexican people making Korean food (as is common in my hometown of Chicago). Food is culture. It's transmittable. "Race," as comedian Hari Kondabolu reminded us during a recent Late Night With David Letterman appearance, "is a social construct." But as Nashville stays busy nextifying itself for a still-adoring national press corps, the question the city has not done a good job of reckoning with lately — never mind what parts of town are seeing this "revival," or what qualifies as such — is this: Whose "culture is commerce," and who gets to profit from it?

Speaking to the Scene, Burke described Two Ten Jack as an "unpretentious neighborhood gathering spot, with authentic cuisine." One could argue where a 12-dollar drink comprising Yamazaki 12-year single-malt Scotch, Pierre Ferrand Amber cognac, Benedictine, lemongrass, lemon, lime and Angostura bitters falls along the "unpretentious" spectrum, or to what degree chasing cocktail trends undermines the "authentic cuisine" claim further.

But more importantly, why would Burke feel entitled to use the word "authentic"? The menu is built on Japanese food, yes — and reverently so. But the concept is clearly a hybrid. The peak-artisanal mixology, the rugged heritage-style workwear for the staff, the Budapest Hotel-like meticulousness of mood — these are the trappings of "the New Nashville." And all for the good! But why call a studied and purposefully alloyed aesthetic "authentic"? Because you can?

Judging by the comment thread, Haruch has hit a major nerve: Some readers have taken issue with his story, while others wholeheartedly agree.

What do you think about food, culture, white privilege and the term "authenticity"? And what else is on your mind?

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National Cornbread Festival Update, and a Cast-Iron Quandary

Posted by on Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 6:17 AM

We can rebuild it!
  • We can rebuild it!
Did youtake my advice and submit a recipe in the National Cornbread Cook-Off? Well I hope you did, because the deadline has now unfortunately passed. And it turns out you know at least one of the judges already.

Here's the roster of culinarians who will be sitting in judgement at the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn., on April 26-27:

1. Linda Carman — Martha White Test Kitchen
2. Hunter Lewis — Southern Living
3. Sheri Castle — Cookbook author
4. Chris Chamberlain — Nashville Scene
5. Kim Severson — The New York Times
6. Don Welch — Chattanooga WTVC-TV
7. Mary Constantine — Knoxville News Sentinel
8. Christy Jordan — Southern Plate (blog)
9. Stacey Little — Southern Bite (blog)
10. Brandie Skibinski — The Country Cook (blog)
11. Bob Carlton — Birmingham News
12. Walter Lambert — WVLT-TV, Knoxville

Even if you didn't enter a recipe, the weekend is still worth a visit, with plenty of cornpone activities for adults and kids. I'm especially looking forward to a tour of the foundry at the Lodge plant so I can see where all my cast-iron dollars have been going.

While we're talking about skillets, I had the unfortunate experience of discovering that a recent guest at my cabin had run my perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet through the dishwasher.

With some steel wool and elbow grease I was able to get the rust out and now I'm in the process of laying down some new layers of protective grease to achieve that miraculous non-stick cooking surface that characterizes a great skillet.

What are your secrets to cast-iron care? I store mine with a paper towel inside to help keep moisture out, but that's the main trick I know. What are your tried and true methods to season and cook in cast-iron, Bitesters? It's sharing time!

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